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Showing posts with label Ian Davidson MP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ian Davidson MP. Show all posts

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

How Westminster views Scots and Scotland at a crucial point in their history

Unionist MPs laughing at a Scottish Labour MP, Ian Davidson, clowning, gesticulating wildly, and jeering at the aspirations of Scots and Scotland in an historic referendum.

This is about the intentions of UK to implement £2bn draconian cuts to the Barnett Formula after a No vote, in a Scotland already experiencing child poverty and deprivation from UK's austerity and the lunacies of the Bedroom Tax.

Ian Davidson exhibits complacent self-satisfaction at the reception his clowning receives - at the expense of his fellow Scots - from a claque of Unionist MPs, with the so-called 'Scottish' Secretary, Alistair Carmichael, girning and guffawing  and endorsing Davidson's pantomime.

This is how Scottish Labour MPs who take the UK shilling behave. This is how they regard a crucial time in their county's history. These are the servants of a failed Empire, sneering and jeering their way to redundancy as Scotland secures its independence.

Friday, 27 July 2012

A distillation of defence – the nuclear implications of SNP leadership’s NATO U-turn

The Scottish Select Committee - THE REFERENDUM ON SEPARATION FOR SCOTLAND and John Ainslie of CND.

Session 2012-13
Publications on the internet


To be published as HC 139-vii
HOUSE OF COMMONS: Oral evidence taken before



Evidence heard in Public
Questions 1058 – 1209

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.

Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

Oral Evidence taken before Scottish Affairs Committee on Monday 16 July 2012

Members present:

Mr Ian Davidson (Chair) Ian Davidson MP

Jim McGovern Jim McGovern MP

Mr Iain McKenzie Mr Iain McKenzie MP

Simon Reevell Simon Reevell MP

Mr Alan Reid Alan Reid MP

Lindsay Roy Lindsay Roy MP Lindsay Roy MP

Examination of Witness

Witness: John Ainslie, Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

N.B. All red highlighting and bold selections  in this evidence – selection of text taken verbatim from the original - were made by Peter Curran and reflect his views of significance, and are not present in the original transcript. The opinions formed and conclusions drawn are mine and not those of the Committee or John Ainslie. All URL links from evidence are by Peter Curran and are not present in the original transcript.


I’ll try to keep it simple – usually a forlorn hope …


1. The entire UK nuclear deterrent - the Trident weapons system, and the nuclear submarines that carry it, together with nuclear-powered submarines that don’t carry it – is based in Scotland.

2. The permission of the Scottish people was never sought for this, but it is supported by all three major London-based unionist parties –Labour, Tory and LibDems. It is opposed by the SNP, the Greens and by the Scottish socialist parties.

3. The SNP has a non-nuclear policy, and is opposed to nuclear weapons. It was also opposed to an independent Scotland being a member of the NATO alliance because NATO is committed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons. The SNP’s extant policy is for an independent Scotland to seek membership of Partnership for Peace (PfP),  a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) program aimed at creating trust between NATO and other states in Europe and the former Soviet Union; 22 states are members.

PfP members in the EU include Austria, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden. Other members are Switzerland, Russia, former Eastern bloc countries and former Yugoslavian states


The SNP strategic leadership have now submitted a defence paper for consideration at the October Party Conference in Perth that includes a proposal that an independent Scotland becomes/remains a member of NATO, providing rUK accepts the removal of the Trident weapons system from Scotland. It is not known which members of the ministerial group in the SNP Government oppose this motion, if indeed any do. A few MSPs have publicly opposed it, and some ministers are know to support it. Two MPs, Angus Robertson and Angus MacNeil have put their names to the paper, and it is believed that it is supported by the First Minister (on the basis that it would not have seen the light of day if he didn’t support it).

Those opposed to Scotland’s membership of NATO argue that since NATO is committed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons and is therefore a nuclear alliance, membership, even by countries with a non-nuclear policy, effectively endorses their possession and use.

Comparison of Scotland with Norway – a non-nuclear policy country in NATO (as are another 24) – are flawed, because Scotland’s situation is unique within NATO, and infinitely more complex in its ramifications. (see blogs passim and further analysis in this blog.)

The argument that, since PfP is a NATO organisation, membership of PfP is the same thing as membership of NATO is a nonsensical argument when one considers that Russia, for example, is a member, as are the former Eastern Bloc countries – the countries that NATO was specifically founded to combat during the Cold War.

Membership of PfP in relation to NATO is more akin to membership of the UN, where countries with widely different agendas and strategic objectives liaise. To use a crude and simplistic metaphor, to be in NATO is to be in their gang, and jointly accountable for their nuclear actions, however immoral and inhuman. To be in PfP is to recognise the de facto existence of the gang, and the need to communicate and liaise without endorsing its nuclear policy.


Step ONE: Deactivation of Trident weapons system – remove triggers and keys, remove certain components of missiles, and take submarines off patrol. Timescale: a few days.

Step TWO: Remove all weapons and store at Coulport.   Timescale: approximately eight weeks.

Step THREE: Physically remove weapons from Scotland.   Timescale: two years approximately.

Step FOUR: Dismantle weapons at Burghfield  Timescale: four years approximately.

N.B. A key international principle is disarmament is the principle of irreversibility. (For example, steps one and two are relatively easily reversible in a short timescale unless special actions are taken to ensure irreversibility.)

These are the necessary immediate steps – the full decommissioning and cleanup of the nuclear facilities of the base are complex, as is the question of the continued use of the base by submarines, both the former missile carrying subs and the nuclear-powered non-missile carrying subs.


Most of what I wanted to say – and was able to say, given that I am neither an academic  nor a military expert nor a politicians – I have said in these blogs and, vitally, in my replies to comments (which were predominantly in favour of the SNP’s position on NATO). These blogs were in the last month alone – I have blogged many times at earlier dates on NATO.

Alex Salmond, the SNP and NATO - a Faustian bargain?
The SNP, NATO and the end of a dream of a nuclear-free Scotland
Scotland as NATO’s aircraft carrier–Jim Sillar’s shining vision for independence
Nicola Sturgeon on Trident on Question Time, 7th May 2009
More on Scotland and NATO–the Vienna Convention
Scotland’s NATO membership – a deeply flawed concept and a retreat from principle
Truth and transparency in politics – unrealisable ideals or practical necessities?
Sitting on de fence on defence
A nuclear letter over three years ago …
Despite the above, no member of the SNP Parliamentary Party has contacted me openly on this: a few did privately, asking for confidentiality, which I respected.

My analysis of John Ainslie’s wonderfully informative responses to the Scottish Affairs Committee now enables me to clarify my thinking further on the negotiating implications of Scottish nuclear disarmament and NATO membership.


The Scottish Government’s policy on NATO membership of the Robertson/MacNeil motion is carried, the stated policy of the SNP will be as follow -

“Scotland will inherit its international treaty obligations including those with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and will remain a member, subject to agreement on withdrawal of Trident from Scotland.”

“With agreement on the withdrawal of Trident and retaining the important role of the UN, Scotland can continue working with neighbours and allies within NATO.”

“ … An SNP Government will maintain NATO membership subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and NATO continues to respect the right of members only to take part in UN-sanctioned operations. In the absence of such an agreement, Scotland will work with NATO as a member of the Partnership for Peace programme, like Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland. …”

Let’s take the first part of that -

As Angus Robertson made clear to Isabel Fraser (1m50sec point in video), negotiation on the removal of Trident will take place with the UK Government after YES vote in 2014 and before independence day – not with NATO. So membership of NATO is contingent on two things – prior agreement with UK negotiators on “the withdrawal of Trident” and subject to a subsequent agreement with NATO “that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and NATO continues to respect the right of members only to take part in UN-sanctioned operations”.

In other words, after agreement with the UK negotiators on the ‘withdrawal’ of Trident, the SNP Government will graciously ‘maintain NATO membership’, subject to – etc.

As a negotiating position, the naivety of this would be astounding of the SNP leadership actually believed it.  A more realistic but uncharitable explanation is that they are depending on the SNP delegates in Perth in October being naive enough to believe it. It has already caused horse laughs from the Wee Lord of Islay, George Robertson and the SNP’s political  enemies, despite the fact that their defence thinking is at least as naive, and compounded by the MOD’s monumental incompetence and corruption, allied to NATO’s deep confusion and uncertainty about their role in the modern world.

In point of fact, any defence-related negotiation on the deterrent will take place with one party on the other side of the table, the UK, and two heavyweights in the backroom, the United States Defence Department and NATO, and no deal will be done that does not have the broad consent of this nuclear trio. The prospect of Philip Hammond, David Cameron and William Hague, three politicians of limited political experience and worse judgement, trying to deal with the hard-eyed men of America and NATO is not one to inspire confidence, especially since a UK general election will take place in May 2015, only six to eight months after the Scottish referendum.

In effect, Scotland’s hopes of getting rid of Trident are inextricably linked to NATO and the United States, and therefore the second part – membership of NATO, etc. must of necessity be a part of the negotiations with the UK. What the SNP objective means in effect is

We will attempt to destroy NATO UK nuclear capacity, remove its Northern European aircraft carrier, Scotland, then tell NATO the conditions on which we will join, then be welcomed with open arms.”

Aye, right … This entirely begs the question of why the hell NATO would want us in membership under these circumstances. To become the 26th member country, with no power or capacity to influence the NATO Big Three’s nuclear policy or the decision to initiate a nuclear strike without political approval? (At the moment NATO effectively has been given a political blank cheque by the USA, France and the UK to launch a nuclear strike instantly on the strategic judgement of its command structure, without reference to any of their three elected decision-making bodies – e.g. the House of Commons -  but with the token endorsement of their heads – the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of France and the Prime Minister of the UK.)

What will actually happen when the SNP negotiating team, flushed with the success of the 2014 YES vote, actually sits down to prepare its opening position on the nuclear issues?

I can’t answer that, since I have no idea how their team will be structured and how it will be advised, nor how they will define their range of negotiating objectives.  So I can only say what could happen, and, tentatively, what should happen from the standpoint of good diplomatic and negotiating practice.

The pre-negotiations analysis is a critical phase in any negotiation. Under certain circumstances, especially if it is done badly, it can become the critical phase.

Over-simplifying, the first steps are to determine negotiating objectives, i.e. the desired outcomes of the negotiation, to prioritise them, to quantify the range of acceptability within the objectives, and to determine which objectives are linked, and how. Clearly defence related matters are interlinked, but defence as a total issue may have critical linkage to other issues, e.g. jobs, environmental matters, investment.

Two key aspects exist in relation to prioritisation of issues – significance and urgency. Issues may be of high significance but low urgency in terms of when the objective or at the other extreme may have high urgency but low significance. As in project planning, sequencing of issues is necessary – achievement of one may be contingent on prior achievement of another.

Let’s try to look at the removal of Trident and NATO membership from a simple perspective. The achievement of the removal of Trident objective, in the SNP defence paper, must be negotiated with the UK before membership of NATO can be negotiated – if one accepts that it must, or even can be negotiated with NATO. Both are presented to the SNP membership as deal breakers, i.e. crucial objectives that must be achieved. A nuclear Scotland is a totally unacceptable outcome in the negotiations with the UK. Membership of NATO is unacceptable if, after negotiating a nuclear-free Scotland with the UK, NATO requires Scotland to host nuclear weapons or participate in non-UN sanctioned operations. But all objective, even crucial objectives, have measurable elements defining how acceptable the agreement is.

If it is essential, say for example, that I buy a car, there is almost certainly a minimum and maximum price that I will pay. If I must have the car by the end of the month, I may take delivery today or on the last day of the month. I therefore have entry and exit points on price and time.

So with the crucial objective of the removal of Trident after independence – in an ideal world, Trident would vanish the day after independence, painlessly and without any cost to the Scottish people. The reality is more complex, and the SNP’s ‘withdrawal of Trident’ will have to be defined on a spectrum of acceptability on a number of measurable criteria, with an ideal position as entry point and a deal-breaker definition on the same measures as an exit point.

Theoretically the entry point is immediately and the exit point is at some point on a loosely-defined or undefined timescale – a case of now or sometime …

In the magical thinking of many SNP supporters, independence is a magic wand that will conjure away all difficulties, as my correspondents are regular witness to, but realpolitik – and life – just ain’t like that.

The dangers of the spectrum between entry and exit point on the removal of Trident are more or less signalled – defined almost – by the stage shown above -

Step ONE: Deactivation of Trident weapons system – remove triggers and keys, remove certain components of missiles, and take submarines off patrol. Timescale: a few days.

Step TWO: Remove all weapons and store at Coulport. Timescale: approximately eight weeks.

Step THREE: Physically remove weapons from Scotland. Timescale: two years approximately.

Step FOUR: Dismantle weapons at Burghfield Timescale: four years approximately.

Bear in mind these are John Ainslie’s and CND’s estimate (supported by some experts) – but the UK side of the negotiation has very different views, as the loaded questions of the Select Committee MPs demonstrated very clearly. (Whether they actually believe their estimates or not is immaterial – they have a vested interest in inflating them, and in inflating costs and exaggerating difficulties.)

Q1059 Chair Ian Davidson: As you will appreciate, there has been some dubiety expressed about the timetable that you have brought forward. It seems astonishingly fast for some people.

Other questions from the chair, Ian Davidson, signal another significant, not-very-hidden agenda, e.g. -

Q1062 Chair: If the first stage is that you switch something off, presumably you can switch it back on again. What I am not clear about from your timetable of 24 months is at what stage is that, as it were, irrecoverable?

Of course, I may be accused of being unduly cynical on this – an alternative explanation is that Ian Davidson is a keen unilateral disarmer, and wants to ensure compliance with the principle of irreversibility.

Let’s take one conceivable scenario – and it is only one of a legion of related ones. Negotiations of the removal of Trident are protracted, holding up other vital negotiations, and risking deadlock. A siren voice comes from the lead negotiator of the UK team -

UK chief negotiator:Clearly what is vital to the Scottish government is to ensure that Trident is put beyond use as quickly as possible. This can relatively quickly and easily achieved by removing triggers and keys, removing certain components of missiles, and taking submarines off patrol and returning them to base.

We are prepared to agree to do this virtually immediately if you will agree to a timescale of a minimum of ten years and a maximum of 20 years before the Faslane base and Coulport facilities are decommissioned.

In that period, the UK and NATO can continue to use the base as normal, continuing patrols of nuclear-powered submarines, providing safe havens for UK and NATO submarines, with all operations continuing as normal except  for the fact that missiles are deactivated.

A joint working party will be established consisting of rUK and NATO representatives together with Scottish Government representatives on how progressive decommissioning may be effected by consensus. Of course, Scotland will be a member of NATO, in accordance with their wishes, and this will facilitate easy communication and liaison.”

Such a proposal might be very seductive at a critical point in a difficult negotiation. In fact, I suspect it is already a seductive one to Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond – whose commitment to a nuclear-free Scotland I do not doubt -  but also to others in the party who harbour a guilty secret – they believe  in the nuclear deterrent – the love that dare not speak its name in the SNP lest careers be harmed.

To a Scottish nationalist audience, in post-referendum euphoria, anxious to see independence day itself arrive, and to a largely apathetic wider electorate, this could be an easy sell.

It would be the road to hell, paved with good intentions – and political ambitions.

Of course, the above scenario could occur without the party changing its policy on NATO membership. I believe, however, that NATO membership makes it much more likely and renders Scotland much more vulnerable to nuclear blandishments, and the likelihood that Trident will be with us for a generation or more – if we have that long.

Here are a few other selected quotes from the Select Committee’s interrogation of John Ainslie -

John Ainslie: It is an interesting question. In terms of disarmament principles - from the international bodies -irreversibility is a basic principle in disarmament. Having said that, how do you really enforce it?

The study looks at verifying that those processes have happened, which clearly helps to make it more difficult to reverse them. That verification is more of a problem at those first stages. How do you know whether they have that spare key or a duplicate key? Those first stages are harder to verify than physically moving warheads. The study has been done on verifying that. On the one hand, the warhead information is classified, which produces a problem in terms of verification, but there have been studies on ways around that. In other words, it is possible to have systems to verify the physical process of moving or dismantling warheads.


Q1064 Lindsay Roy: How robust is the evidence for your assertion that this could be completed within two years?


.Q1065 Lindsay Roy: Have you had any information from the MOD? Have you sought any information from the MOD on whether that is an accurate assertion?


Q1069 Lindsay Roy: Can you tell us whose responsibility it would be to remove and transport the warheads, should Scotland become a separate country?


Q1070 Lindsay Roy: Would it be primarily Scotland’s responsibility or the responsibility of the rest of the UK to remove the warheads and transport them?


Q1071 Lindsay Roy: So that would require the good will and co-operation of the rest of the UK?


Q1073 Mr McKenzie: Do you reckon we still could do that sort of gradual removal of warheads within two years?


Q1075 Mr McKenzie: If it started two years from the time you are saying, it would not be completed in the two years you were saying that it could be.


Q1077 Lindsay Roy: If that were the case, what would be the proportionate cost to the Scottish budget of removing and transferring the warheads and in the decommissioning? Has that been worked out?


Q1083 Chair: Removing the keys and triggers - we touched on this earlier - is something that is done, but is then reversible and can be put back again. I am not clear what the disabling of missiles, which is done in eight days, is. What is it that you do to disable them, since presumably they are already disabled by the removal of the keys and triggers? What different step is this and, again, is it reversible?

John Ainslie: It is.


Q1084 Chair: So up to that phase 3, where your missile is disabled in eight days, all of that is still reversible?


Q1086 Chair: Okay, I see the distinction there between warheads and missiles. Once that is done, the removal of the limited life components from Scotland takes a year. That is phase 6. Within a year, if these things were out of Scotland and not brought back in, that is the stage at which it is irreversible. Is that right?

John Ainslie: There is always this element in disarmament that you could in fact bring them back, but it is more difficult.

Q1087 Chair: A Government of a separate Scotland would presumably not condone them coming back in again, so there is a certain irrevocability about that. Can I just clarify something? If you are removing the keys and the triggers and disabling the missiles, can those bits not simply be moved south of the border at that stage as well? Suppose it took another week to take them down south. They would then be out of Scotland within a fortnight or three weeks and that would, unless they were smuggled back up, irrevocably stop the missiles being usable. Is that correct?

John Ainslie: Yes, possibly. It is a question of how easy it is to monitor it. As I have said, work has been done on verification. I was looking at how you verify it. Quite a bit of work has been done with warheads. Some of these other things are harder to verify. A warhead has a radiological signature. Because it is radioactive, you can check whether it has been moved around and that gives you the mechanism to verify it.


Q1089 Chair: Okay, so it is within that time and they get loaded into the back of a Vauxhall Vectra like mine and driven down to England and, subject to good faith and so on, that would essentially be the whole Trident fleet disabled.

John Ainslie: Yes, that might be a better way of doing it. What I was proposing is that somehow or other it is verified. If you were able to verify them down south, that might be preferable, because they are further away.

Q1090 Chair: I suppose that, with verifying them down south, you would not know whether they had a spare one. That was why I was making the point that, if it is done in good faith, this could be done in less than a fortnight. Is that fair?


Q1091 Chair:  ------  It might take some time to remove the boats and missiles, but under the system or timetable you have suggested of two years to no warheads, in reality, all of it could be disabled within 14 days, which is the point.

John Ainslie: I would say less than that; seven or eight days to disable it.


Q1092 Mr McKenzie: On removing the keys and disarming almost immediately, how could that happen, and is there a sort of overlap? I take it that the rest of the UK would still wish to retain a nuclear deterrent. As such, if you are taking the keys off all the nuclear weapons in that base, the nuclear deterrent that they wish to keep would be nullified. Would keys have to be sent down south, or to Wales or Northern Ireland, and then a submarine go there to maintain it? How would the rest of the UK maintain that nuclear deterrent if they wanted to?


Q1093 Simon Reevell: ----- I presume what you have been describing is a scenario based on a desire on the part of the UK, not including Scotland, to disarm, because none of this is necessary without that desire.

John Ainslie: If the force is based in Scotland, and if we are looking at the scenario of an independent Scotland, which is a separate, sovereign state, the idea of a sovereign state having its whole nuclear weapons capability indefinitely in another sovereign state is probably not sustainable. So at some point-this is my other argument to get on to-if they can’t move it, you are in a position that becomes unsustainable.


The following extended exchange with Simon Reevell leaves me with a deep feeling of unease. He may or may not have been flying kite for the MOD and the UK Government, but there is a central thread and agenda there that leaves me apprehensive, and it was pursued with persistence and vigour.

Q1095 Simon Reevell: Let us assume, for the sake of the argument, that the base, although it remains part of the UK, for whatever reason cannot be accessed, which would be the effect of separation.  ----

John Ainslie: Are you assuming a Guantanamo Bay or Cork model?

Q1096 Simon Reevell: No, let us simply assume that suddenly, for whatever reason, the base is not there any more. That is problematic, but the leap in logic that means you then start to remove the triggers comes from a desire to see disarmament. It is not an automatic consequence of that.

John Ainslie: What I am saying is that an independent Scotland could say to a member of the UK Government, "This is what we would like you to do."

Q1097 Simon Reevell: It cannot. It can say that you cannot bring your submarines here any more. That is the limit of what an independent Scottish Government could do. It could say, "The base is closed to your submarines. Do not bring them here", but what happens as a result of saying that is a completely separate consideration, isn’t it?

John Ainslie: They are based there, and that is the problem.

Q1098 Simon Reevell: The ones that are at sea.

John Ainslie: They cannot actually sail them anywhere else. They do not have safety clearance. Even Kings Bay in America will not have safety clearance to handle British warheads.

Q1099 Simon Reevell: But the point that you are trying to make is that if the bases are not available, the missiles have to be disarmed. The availability of the bases and the decision about the maintenance of the deterrent are separate. One has a bearing on the other, but it does not follow that they have to begin to disarm the missiles the day after the base becomes unavailable, does it?

John Ainslie: If that is the only base that they have.

Q1100 Simon Reevell: They could stay at sea for a period to begin with, for example.

John Ainslie: Not very long. There are practical problems. In theory, you could say, "Well, you can just temporarily move them to Devonport or to America." However, quite a lot of the work that I have done in recent years is on nuclear safety issues and to criticise the defence nuclear safety regulator, but I don’t think that the defence nuclear safety regulator would say, "Oh yes. Just bring them into Devonport and we’ll handle the warheads there," or "Let’s just take them over to Kings Bay in America and temporarily operate from there." There are huge issues with this.

Q1101 Simon Reevell: There are. From an American point of view, they might have to reassess the safety regulations at their base, but they would do that in the context of losing an important nuclear-powered ally. They may or may not, but there are all sorts of other considerations that would come in. Would you accept that the idea that the base ceasing to be available means that we start to take the triggers out of the missiles is an enormous jump of logic?

John Ainslie: Not really, no. The other issue is that there is something less than 225 nuclear warheads, and 120 of those are on submarines. There are about 100 spares, of which a small number – 10 to 20 - are under refurbishment or overhaul at Burghfield. There are a significant number of extra warheads, which are currently sitting in bunkers at Coulport and so are not at sea.

Q1102 Simon Reevell: But that is not the same. They are weapons that are being stored. We are talking about the deterrent capability. Let us assume - God forbid - that one of those weapons being stored leaked and that whole area could not be approached. It would not follow from that that the submarine-based missile deterrent systems at seas would have to be disarmed unilaterally by the UK. That might be one option, but there are all sorts of other options, such as the French option, the American option or the relocation in the UK option.

John Ainslie: These are all possible options, but the other paper that I was doing was about relocation. Obviously, you cannot rule it out entirely, but I do not think that it is very viable.

Q1103 Simon Reevell: The impression that I got from what you were saying is that if there was separation for Scotland, a direct consequence of that would be imposed nuclear disarmament on the UK. I appreciate that that is something that you might like to see, but it is not as strong a link as that, is it?

John Ainslie: It is quite a close link. I do not think that the weakness lies in the area that you are saying. The weakness lies with whether an independent Scotland would actually do this or whether it would negotiate a deal.

Q1104 Simon Reevell: That is a separate matter. If it negotiated a deal, the situation would not arise, but if the situation arises where the bases are no longer available, there are number of options at that stage, one of which is to dismantle the weapons.

John Ainslie: Yes, that is right, but the question is how viable these other options are.

Q1105 Simon Reevell: The viability of the other options depends on a number of things, which you are not aware of and neither are we, because of the very nature of those considerations. For example, there is the accommodation that is available at the American base or the French base - bearing in mind the different size of the submarines - or the rewriting of the rules and regulations for handling elsewhere in the UK. Those are the sorts of factors.


An equally interesting exchange with Iain McKenzie, but with a rather more transparent, but nonetheless significant agenda -

Q1114 Mr McKenzie: You say that two years is a reasonable time scale to have these weapons removed. The rest of the UK is saying that it would be something in the region of 20 years.

Is there an interim arrangement that you would accept with a guarantee that in, say, 20 years’ time they would definitely be off Scottish soil but in the mean time there might be a gradual phasing?

John Ainslie: I think the time scales are measuring two different things. I am measuring practical disarmament. The UK Government could do that, and if they did there would be no nuclear weapons by the time of the referendum. These are practical things that could be done.

Q1115 Mr McKenzie: But the UK Government are saying 20 years; you are saying two years. There is a gulf. Is there anywhere in the middle that you would accept with a guarantee that, in the future, they would be gone?


Q1116 Chair: --------

As you will recognise, originally the SNP were in favour of having a republic without the Queen, but that has now changed. They were originally in favour of the euro, I think, which has now changed. They were also against the Bank of England being involved, which has now changed. It might well be that this, like NATO, is something that changes, too, given the pressures that might be exerted.



Q1184 Mr McKenzie: Do you see a link between Scotland being a member of NATO and allowing nuclear weapons on its territory?

John Ainslie: From our point of view, the CND is opposed to the UK being involved in NATO, so therefore it follows that it would not be very consistent for us to say that we would support an independent Scotland being a member of NATO, primarily because, historically, NATO is a nuclear alliance in terms of where it comes from. Our position would be that NATO is an anachronism.

Q1185 Mr McKenzie: You wouldn’t support membership of NATO by a separate Scotland.

John Ainslie: That’s right.

Q1186 Mr McKenzie: What do you think taking that stance on nuclear would do to international relationships in the first few weeks or months of a separate Scotland?

John Ainslie: It allows different relationships. It is hard to go through it in detail, but some countries might be happier if Scotland was within NATO and others might not. I don’t know all the details and the ins and outs of it.

Q1187 Mr McKenzie: But you wouldn’t see a wholly negative attitude out there towards Scotland.

John Ainslie: If it wasn’t in NATO?

Simon Reevell: If it wasn’t in NATO.

John Ainslie: If it wasn’t in NATO, would lots of other countries be unhappy about that? Not particularly. The complicated one is the United States -

Q1188 Mr McKenzie: Bearing in mind Scotland’s strategic position on the map, would you not think that other countries would be a bit unsupportive of it not being a member of NATO?

John Ainslie: The political geography issue is a sort of cold-war issue. I don’t know the extent to which that is really still valid today. The problem may well be in terms of the United States or the elements within it that would be keen on Scotland being a member of NATO. I think that the European response might be more mixed.

Q1189 Lindsay Roy: If the NATO alliance rests on a principle of nuclear deterrents, why do you think the SNP are now reconsidering an application to join NATO?

John Ainslie: From a Scottish CND perspective, that is not something that we would support. I don’t really know quite where that issue is within the SNP. My understanding is that they might be looking at defence issues, which is fair enough. To what extent are they looking at NATO membership? We would not consider that a move in the right direction.

Q1190 Lindsay Roy: Is it not inconsistent, on the basis of how NATO is predicated on nuclear deterrence, that the SNP should be considering that?

John Ainslie: From our point of view, it would be preferable for all political parties to adopt a position opposed to NATO membership, because NATO is a nuclear alliance.

Lindsay Roy: That is very clear and helpful. Thank you.

Q1191 Chair: Norway, for example, is not a nuclear state, yet it is a member of NATO. Surely Scotland could be in that position. As I understand it, Norway does not allow nuclear weapons on its soil, yet it manages to exist within NATO. Why could Scotland not do that?

John Ainslie: I am not saying that is impossible. Scotland could be in that position, but it is not desirable from our point of view. There are a number of NATO members such as Norway, Germany and Canada that are actively involved in the nuclear disarmament movement and are trying to change NATO policy. My concern is that they have not been able to get very far. Their attempts to change things have been hampered by the feeling that there has to be consensus. NATO’s nuclear policy has not moved very far since the end of the cold war when it could have potentially moved more radically.

If Scotland were a member of NATO, it would not be impossible also to follow a disarmament route, but NATO membership would make that more difficult. Certainly, from our point of view, that is not helpful.


And lastly, what I see as potentially the most dangerous dialogue of all at the Select Committee, one that represents a very real possible UK – backed by NATO – negotiating position – an agreement to make Faslane and Coulport UK territory, allowing an independent Scotland to claim it was a nuclear-free state. Our willingness to join NATO in my view leads us inexorably down such roads.

Q1168 Mr Reid: The angle I am coming from is that if the Scottish had signed a treaty with rUK for Faslane and Coulport to become a sovereign UK territory with nuclear weapons on it, could the Scottish Government plausibly argue that it was a nuclear-free state?

John Ainslie: I don’t think they could argue that it was a nuclear-free state.

Mr Reid: Sorry, I meant nuclear weapons-free state.

John Ainslie: In terms of the NPT, it would be a non-nuclear weapons state, but it is a legal anomaly. The non-proliferation treaty only recognises the five countries that had nuclear weapons at the time the treaty was signed. That is almost there within it, so everyone else is a non-nuclear weapons state, or had their own nuclear weapons at the time it was signed.

Germany and these other countries are regarded from the point of view of the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states, although they are hosting nuclear weapons.

Q1169 Mr Reid: So the point I am trying to make is: could the Scottish Government sign this deal and still regard itself as a non-nuclear weapons state?

John Ainslie: In terms of the NPT?

Mr Reid: Yes.

John Ainslie: That might be the case. That is a legal anomaly in terms of the wording. It isn’t that they are really nuclear weapon-free states.

Q1170 Mr Reid: But legally, yes.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Bomb is back on the agenda – with a vengeance: Trident and the SNP

Great fault lines run through each of the three main UK Unionist parties – their San Andreas faults, so to speak, waiting to tear the parties apart.

With the Tories, it’s Europe – the Great EU Fault.

With Labour, it’s the Great Blair/Iraq Fault, with the party heading for polarisation behind Ed Miliband and the trades unions at one pole, and the right-wing, big money, shadowy interests represented by the Blair/Sainsbury supporters, now called, of all things, Progress. (This abuse of the language goes hand in hand with peace envoys and faith foundations)Unions fight Labour's Blairite faction 'in struggle for party's soul'

The LibDem fault line is the fact that the party is a deeply unstable, cobbled-together artefact (1981) of left and right, represented by the Orange Book right-wingers -Tories in all but name - and the old-fashioned liberal left. This is now compounded by the appalling mistake of the Coalition. What can we call this thing? It is really just one big fault line, so let’s name it the Great LibDem Fault and leave it at that.

Up to this point, the SNP haven’t had a major fault line. They have, of course, the kind of differences that exist in every party: some are monarchists, some are republicans, some lean to the left, some lean to the right, and views vary on the nature of Britishness.

But the great unifying factors in the SNP has been the party’s unswerving commitment to full independence for Scotland, to an anti-nuclear Scotland and to the removal of WMDs (Trident) from Scottish waters after independence, and to a social democratic vision for the nation.

It was inevitable that once the party secured a clear mandate to govern for a second term  and to call a referendum on independence - with independence now within its grasp, but with a mountain to climb to shift the perceptions of the Scottish electorate towards a decisive YES vote - that the pressures of a YES campaign would shine an unforgiving, roving spotlight on every policy.

Within the party faithful - and among crucial ranks of those supporting independence who were not SNP – the question increasingly became – independence, but what kind of independence? This in turn led to two conflicting pressures: the party strategists needed to maintain a disciplined consistency of approach in a unified message  to the whole electorate, one that would reassure those who feared change, and who clung to the familiar, the traditional, but it also needed to keep the faithful on board, because they were the foot soldiers of the independence movement and of the YES campaign.

I believe the party has made a number of assumptions in doing this that are dangerous, and that it urgently needs to revisit them before the autumn, when the psychologically important two year lead time to the referendum really starts.

1. In trying to flatten out different perceptions of change in the minds of the wider electorate, e.g. monarchy, currency, Britishness, NATO, etc. it has focused the attention of at least a minority of committed nationalists on exactly these differences, causing them to probe what looked initially like a minor fault line and question if it was symptomatic of something deeper. (In tyre manufacturing, a hairline crack in the sidewall revealed at the final inspection stage usually results in testing the tyre to destruction by sawing it apart in sections, since hairline cracks can be the beginning of major faults.)

2. The party has assumed that the crucial defence issue – the quiescent elephant in the room for so long – could safely be kept quiet by resounding, crowd-pleasing conference statements about unswerving commitment to an anti-nuclear policy, and the detail could be quietly ignored, with membership concerns being fobbed off by anodyne statements and reassurances. The elephant is no longer quiet, in fact it’s out of the room and rampaging around, causing mayhem and confusion on all fronts.

3. The party has badly underrated the nature of its nascent support from the non-SNP left, including the Greens, the minority socialist parties, the Scottish Labour Party and the trades union movement by failing to understand the deeply-held economic and social views that underpin the Left, and the wider forces that motivate them.

4. The constitutional monarchy issue, although it was a bullet some republicans found hard to bite on, would not in itself have been a problem (in my view, as a republican) but when allied to concepts of Britishness and the questions of the Union of the Crowns and flags, began to sit more and more uneasily with some nationalists.

It was probably inevitable that the party would look at the Obama campaign and draw lessons from it. But one lesson it appears to have misunderstood is from where it should draw its professional support.

Scotland has some of the finest intellects in the world in every professional disciplines, including psychology and political science. It would not have been hard to find a combination of these skills to advise the Party on the psychological aspects of its YES campaign messages and the presentation of policy.

Faced with this abundance of intellectual riches, the SNP chose to go here for its support – RED Co. It is not a choice I would have made, for a whole range of reasons, but since my focus at the moment is on the crucial issue of defence, I won’t go there for the moment. Today’s Sunday Herald has an article on this – Don’t Mention Independence by Paul Hutcheon and Tom Gordon. I can’t find a link to it at the moment – buy the paper, it has loads of excellent stuff today.


I had planned to start the day with a blog covering in detail the deliberations of the so-called Referendum on Separation for Scotland Select Committee defence enquiries. (Before the BBC bashers rush in, let me say that was the title given to it by the Labour-dominated committee, and the BBC were at pains to point this out regularly on the strapline during the channel 81 broadcast of the 13th June meeting.)

However, two stories this morning changed my agenda for the rest of the day -

The Sunday Herald front page – Goodbye Trident – a blueprint for a nuclear-free Scotland two years after independence, a report by Scottish CND ‘welcomed by the Scottish Government’.

The Sunday Telegraph with Go-ahead for new nuclear weapons by Robert Watts and Patrick Hennessy

Nowhere in the story, nor in the Telegraph Leader article on page 25 - Trident is an essential part of our armoury – is Scotland’s independence mentioned, nor the fact that the UK’s entire plans depend on the referendum outcome.

They have their heads in the sand and a nuke up their arse – not the most comfortable position to adopt

The Telegraph Leader is instructive, in that every line of it effortlessly demonstrates exactly why we should not have nuclear weapons – not quite the leader writer’s intentions. But read it  -and shudder

For your further entertainment, I offer my unedited clips (in three parts) of the Referendum on Separation for Scotland Select Committee, where the unionist Coalition of Labour, Tories and LibDems aimed at keeping Scotland and the UK resolutely WMD-mad, and opposed to the independence of Scotland, plough their contemptible furrows, acting as straight men with feed lines for the representatives of the Coalition and the monumentally incompetent MOD.

To the credit of Nick Harvey and Peter Luff, they did not always give the Committee the answers they clearly craved. I will analyse, edit and clip these when I get time – meanwhile, eat it raw, and prepare to vomit

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The ‘experts’ and the referendum questions

In my recent blog on the Scotsman’s report of Prof. John Curtice’s reported two question referendum Ask the bloody question(s) I analysed the contradictions and weaknesses of his second question - but I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, feeling that he had been misreported by the Scotsman. He hadn’t, as the clip below shows …

  As far as the rest of the world is concerned, I have been wasting my breath on these matters for some years now – there is a persistent and determined failure to come to terms with this by politicians, by the media and by political commentators. I think it makes their wee heids hurt …

As for the rest of what is laughably called the ‘debate’, the misrepresentations, factoids and downright lies continue unabated from the unionist side and from semi-informed academics who should know better. I want to believe that so-called experts are truly that – expert – and that they tell the truth and do not politicise it, but I am regularly forced by their behaviour into an invidious choice as to which of these attributes is true, because on recent form, they can’t both be true. Either they don’t know what they are talking about or they are being economical with the actualité.

Let me try, almost despairingly, to yet again nail the nonsense to the floor -

THE FACTOIDS – that which everyone knows is true, except it ain’t (Norman Mailer)

Factoid one: The SNP and the Scottish government keep changing their definition of independence, and are unclear as to what it means.

Since their election in 2007 as the Government of Scotland, the SNP and the Scottish Government have been clear about what independence means – and so have the majority of the electorate. It means Scotland running all its own affairs as an independent country, while retaining the Queen as constitutional monarch, being part of a currency union (now preferred as sterling) and being part of the EU, of the UN and of suitable defence partnerships and treaties.

It means intelligent and free cooperation with others in an interdependent world, especially the nations of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, our long-term friends and neighbours, but also with the free Scandinavian countries who are also our good neighbours. It means playing our part in international affairs, including international peace-keeping operations and alliances, based on our free, sovereign judgement as an independent country. It means non-nuclear, Trident-free Scotland.

Factoid two: The SNP and the Scottish Government actively want a second question in the referendum ballot as a fallback position in case they lose the independence referendum.

The SNP and the Scottish Government are totally committed to achieving the full independence of Scotland, will have a referendum to determine the Scottish people’s support for that, and would prefer a single YES/NO question to determine the matter. Only by full independence will Scotland have control of defence and foreign policy and truly be a nation.

But, since being elected as the Government of all the people of Scotland, not just the nationalist supporters of independence, the Scottish Government has recognised that a substantial body of Scottish public opinion and the electorate favour substantially more powers being devolved to Scotland by Westminster, but wants to remain part of the UK.

It is the view of the SNP and of the Scottish Government that it is their duty to ascertain what choices the Scottish people would therefore want to be allowed to make in the biggest political decision of their lifetime, indeed, the biggest for over three centuries. That was the Scottish Government’s position in the 2009 consultation, and it is their position in the 2012 consultation now underway. It is also quite evidently the position of a very substantial and influential body of opinion in Scottish society and beyond Scotland.

Devolution of powers may be defined along a spectrum from zero – the pre-1997 position – to total, the so-called devo max option. Devo max, far from being undefined, is clearly defined by common sense – it means everything except defence and foreign policy.

Anything less than devo max, e.g. devo plus, Calman, Cameron’s vague promises and the various vacuous and nebulous suggestions of other unionist politicians demands definition. Only Reform Scotland has attempted this in devo plus, and the ill-fated and doomed Calman-inspired Scotland Act has defined the other.


Following the conclusion of the consultation exercise now underway - and after the local elections in May - the Scottish Government and the SNP will set out progressively - over the referendum lead-in period until Autumn 2014 - their full prospectus for independence. This will represent their negotiating position with the UK Government after a successful referendum outcome, i.e. a YES vote to independence. In the event of a NO vote to independence, all bets are open.

There is no confusion and absolute clarity on the nationalist side.

There is deep confusion, lack of clarity and a lack of any coordinated approach on the unionist side. This is unhealthy for democracy and for a referendum outcome that will be supported by all the people of Scotland - and the UK - whatever it may be.

For the UK’s sake and for Scotland’s sake, Tories, Labour and LibDems - get your unionist act together and start behaving like mature adults. And try to find some experts who can talk objective sense, and  a statesman or stateswoman to lead your campaign …

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Saturday thoughts - Davidson/Whiteford, Gordon Wilson,Gerry Hassan - and more


Some correspondents have asked what four-letter word I am signalling by using four asterisks – ****

I can reveal all – the word is heck, which clearly is not acceptable in public utterances. I sometime put an f in place of the first asterisk to throw people of the scent, e.g. f***, and I did contemplate putting ck on the end, e.g. **ck to give them a clue, but decided that this could be misleading. I don’t know why I bother – after all heck is accepted now on television, in film and even in informal conversation. Maybe I’m too ******* prudish


All the word games being played by Ian Davidson and his supporters to try and throw a smokescreen up around his remark to Eilidh Whiteford remind me of a time when I had a minor factory PR responsibility in the old Goodyear tyre factory at Garscadden. A high-powered American PR guy had come across from Akron, Ohio to cover our families’ day event, and I commented to him on the difficulties of retreat from an unguarded remark.

He smiled and said “When you're in the shit, Pete, play around with time and tense – and if in deep trouble, get a lawyer to speak for you”. Davidson seems to have done all three, and he got Willie Bain MP, who is legally qualified and used to lecture in law, as his front man on Newsnight Scotland, rather than sit down opposite Eilidh Whiteford and offer his apology for an apology face to face. His supporters, including astonishingly, some women, have effortlessly picked up on the approach too.


As a committed SNP supporter, I have to regularly remind myself that the referendum is about Scotland’s independence, not the SNP as a political party. They are the only competent party on the UK scene, they are the only major party advocating the independence of Scotland and the end of the nuclear obscenity, but after independence, two of these three aspects may no longer represent a unique position, and I hope that the new Scottish Labour party, Scottish Centre Right party and Scottish LibDems will have achieved sanity on nuclear weapons and rejoined the human race by then.  The Greens and the Scottish Socialist parties have always favoured independence and taken an anti-nuclear stance, and may even get the chance to demonstrate competence.

Gerry Hassan’s superb article today’s Scotsman is a welcome reminder of the true reasons for seeking independence - as well as a welcome relief from the nonsense talked elsewhere in the paper – and it is a must read for anyone interested in their country at this crucial time.

 Gerry Hassan - Why the canon of Scottish independence will roar



I was in W.H. Smith’s in the RIE yesterday, and bought New Scientist, mistakenly thinking I had bought the New Statesman. It proved to be a serendipitous choice. This issue contains a double-headed article by Shawn Lawrence Otto and Peter Aldhous under the title Decline and Fall about the dangerous retreat from scientific thought, rationality and respect for science and scientists by the American Republican Right. The concepts and statistics explored by this seminal article should be read by everybody who is concerned about the future of our world, and especially by politicians seeking to persuade those opposed to their views to shift their positions and their mindsets. I will explore this further in another blog – meanwhile, get out and buy the magazine.


It is with deep regret that I have contemplated the actions and statements of Gordon Wilson, a highly respected elder statesman and former leader of the Scottish National Party over the gay marriage issue.

His comment over being ousted as a board member from the Dundee Citizens Advice Bureau have been seized upon by a delighted Scotsman

I fell victim to gay marriage lynch mob, claims ex-SNP leader – with the sub-header – accompanied by a bright coloured SNP logo – “They were intent on my removal” Gordon Wilson, ex-SNP chief.

The Scotsman is showing an increasing tendency to enter the territory of William Randolph Hearst, and this contemptible, sensationalist little piece is worthy of Citizen Kane. It is sad that Gordon Wilson should be associated with such a presentation.

The facts, as I see them, are these -

The CAB’s director, Mary Kininmonth says it all. Gordon Wilson’s stance on gay marriage called into question its commitment to equality of opportunity for all. Another board member said that Gordon Wilson had been “vocal and indeed vitriolic in voicing his opinion over gay marriage in Scotland”.

Gordon Wilson, a member of Dundee Free Church and a member of Christian faith group Solas, feels that he is being discriminated against for his religious views, and so does Gordon Macdonald, Parliamentary officer at CARE Scotland, a Christian public affairs charity. (Excerpt from Care for Scotland website – “CARE for Scotland and Evangelical Alliance Scotland are collaborating in a campaign to encourage Christians to stand as candidates in the Council elections in 2012. “)

He is not being discriminated against for his religious views. If anyone was challenging Gordon Wilson’s right to worship at Dundee Free Church, or be a member of Solas, or to resist attempts to force his church and his minister to marry gay couples if they didn’t want to, or any other of his civil and legal rights in Scotland and under human rights legislation, I would defend him vigorously.

What is indefensible, and certainly intolerable for an equal rights organisation is that he should attempt to impose his religious beliefs about homosexuality and the legitimacy of gay marriage on others, including the legislators and Parliament of our nation, in an attempt to influence and block legislation in a secular society. That is not free speech, it is an attempt to limit freedom and equality under the law.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Scotland’s past and Scotland’s future–Ian Davidson and Derek Mackay

From October 16, 2011

Guess who represents the future of Scotland? The Westminster old-guard Labour representative of a failed Union, or the new MSP from Scotland's Party - the SNP - articulate, forward-looking, with only Scotland on his mind?

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Allan Massie and patriotism - who are the scoundrels?

Allan Massie had a piece in The Scotsman yesterday entitled False patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

His piece was inspired, if that’s the right word, by Ian Davidson’s description in the Commons of the SNP as neo-fascist. Massie appears to set out to defend the SNP against the charge. I waited for the ‘but’: it turned out to be a ‘nevertheless’, when he finally gets to his real agenda in the third column and the sixth paragraph.

“Nevertheless, there is one respect in which his accusation, however offensive, merits consideration.”

He focuses, not on SNP party officials, MSPs, MPs or commentators sympathetic to the SNP to support his charge, but on cybernats, a blanket term used pejoratively by unionists for any online commentator sympathetic to the nationalist cause. Since by definition online comment includes the spectrum of opinion from the moderate and considered to raving abuse, he will have no difficulty in finding such stuff, especially in The Scotsman’s online comment, which is ineptly and badly moderated by the newspaper itself, apparently using post moderation (and not much of that) rather than pre-moderation of comments. I stopped contributing online comment to The Scotsman for this very reason some time ago, after complaining unsuccessfully about this.

(The SNP government is bringing in a bill, the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications {Scotland} Bill, to create two new criminal offences, the second of which concerns the sending or posting on the web of threatening communications of a religious nature, just one pernicious aspect of online abuse.)

Massie manages to ignore the fact of equivalent raving abuse from supporters of the union in The Scotsman, not to mention that mouthpiece of the Union, The Telegraph, where it even invades the letters section of the print edition. He takes issue with one aspect of nationalist comment,  the questioning of the patriotism of non-nationalists, and the tendency of nationalists to describe unionists as quislings.

This ugly word  entered the language during and after the Second World War, derived from Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian politician who collaborated with the Nazi occupation of Norway, ran the Quisling Regime on behalf of the Nazis, and was executed for high treason by his countrymen in 1945. The word now means a person cooperating with an occupying enemy, a collaborator, a traitor. It is certainly too extreme an appellation to give to a political opponent or to someone holding an office, such as Secretary of State for Scotland, that is perceived as having some parallels to the Quisling role.

I don’t think of myself as a cybernat, but I confess to having been tempted to draw such a comparison, and on occasion may have yielded to it, or come close, by loose use of the term.

For the comparison to be valid, the end of the Union and the independence of Scotland would have to be demonstrably the democratic wish of a majority of the Scottish people, that wish would have to have been denied or frustrated by the UK government, by either ignoring a democratic mandate or gerrymandering the political process, e.g. through the mechanics of a referendum, and the Secretary of State for Scotland would have had to be complicit in that process, something that hasn’t happened - yet.

So, I join with Allan Massie in condemning the indiscriminate use of the word quisling to describe the office of Secretary of State for Scotland, although I find nothing to admire or respect in that institution, the contemptible record of which has been documented in Diomhair and elsewhere. I have no respect whatsoever for Scots who choose to accept that office, and will rejoice when it disappears. Until that happens, I will continue to treat it and its incumbents with the contempt I feel they deserve.

I make an exception for the honourable memory of Tom Johnston, wartime Secretary of State for Scotland, the last and perhaps the only incumbent of that role to have acted totally in the interests of Scotland. A socialist, an internationalist and a great Scot by any measures, the things he achieved for his country - and he was never in doubt that it was Scotland - are beyond question.

Allan Massie manages in his piece to move seamlessly from appearing to condemn Ian Davidson’s unfortunate remark, as a Member of Parliament under privilege in the House of Commons, to conflating the most extreme remarks of sundry anonymous online posters to draw parallels between  some Scottish nationalists and Hitler’s Germany, anti-semitism, Franco’s Spain, and to describe them as “at least proto-fascists”.

I have something to offer Allan Massie that may assist him in understanding fascism, and identifying political behaviour that tends towards that ugly and, George Orwell notwithstanding, completely identifiable tendency.

Fascist states are obsessively militaristic in character, consuming a wholly disproportionate part of their national resources on armaments.

They appeal to a nostalgic and glorious past that has little to do with present social and economic realities.

They exalt the Head of State, whether monarch or dictator, and claim either a hereditary or nepotistic right to succession in key offices of state.

They maintain the semblance of a democracy, while effectively nullifying, or as they describe it, ‘balancing’ the democratic institutions with non-democratic, unelected bodies.

They have key linkages between the military and relevant sections of industry in a military/industrial complex. Defence procurement is perceived by the public as incompetent, when in fact it is mainly corrupt, and unfailingly enriches the politicians associated with it.

They claim a right to intervene by force in the affairs of other nation states, and occupy them, always with the claim that they are acting in the interests of the people of the occupied territories.

They have a cult of blood, death and sacrifice in which the Head of State plays a major role. They exalt the dead as heroes of the nation: the children of the governing elite are rarely if ever among the dead. They drape the coffins of the dead with flags.

They are given to militaristic displays at any and every opportunity. They blatantly use military contracts and jobs as a political lever to influence the vestiges of true democracy that remain in the state apparatus.

When the voice of the people is heard, either through popular protest or electoral success, a sustained attack is made by the fascist state on the legitimacy of such protest and electoral success, and the democratic mandate is challenged frontally. The fascist state exercise significant or total control over media.

The fascist state has an elaborate system of patronage, titles and honours to sustain its power and to limit the democratic mandate where it exists.

The fascist state will sacrifice any public service rather than contain its military ambitions or curtail the profits and privileged of the rich and powerful. It deeply distrusts the public services of the nation. It readily blames the poor and the vulnerable for the ills of the nation and holds them responsible for their own miseries.

All of the above characteristics are either currently present or developing in the state of the United Kingdom.

None of them are present in Scottish nationalism, the Scottish National Party, nor in the vast majority of its supporters.

Let me end by saying that I am in fundamental agreement with Allan Massie on one thing - false patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, and I am clear on who the scoundrels are, even if he is not.